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High frequency of lead exposure in the population of an endangered Australian top predator, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi)


Pay, JM and Katzner, TE and Hawkins, CE and Kock, AJ and Wiersma, JM and Brown, WE and Mooney, NJ and Cameron, EZ, High frequency of lead exposure in the population of an endangered Australian top predator, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi), Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 40, (1) pp. 219-230. ISSN 0730-7268 (2021) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2020 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

DOI: doi:10.1002/etc.4914


Lead poisoning, mainly through incidental ingestion of lead ammunition in carcasses, is a threat to scavenging and predatory bird species worldwide. In Australia, shooting for animal control is widespread, and a range of native scavenging species are susceptible to lead exposure. However, the prevalence of lead exposure in Australia's scavenging and predatory birds is largely unknown. We evaluated the degree to which the Tasmanian wedge‐tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi), an endangered Australian raptor and facultative scavenger, showed evidence of lead exposure. We detected lead in 100% of femur and liver tissues of 109 eagle carcasses opportunistically collected throughout Tasmania between 1996 and 2018. Concentrations were elevated in 10% of 106 liver (>6 mg/kg dry wt) and 4% of 108 femur (>10 mg/kg dry wt) samples. We also detected lead in 96% of blood samples taken from 24 live nestlings, with 8% at elevated concentrations (>10 μg/dL). Of the liver samples with elevated lead, 73% had lead207/206 isotope ratios within the published range of lead‐based bullets available in Tasmania. These first comprehensive data on lead exposure of an Australian raptor are comparable to those for raptor studies elsewhere that identify lead‐based ammunition exposure as a conservation threat. Our findings highlight the importance of further research and efforts to address lead contamination throughout the Tasmanian ecosystem and in other Australian regions.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:avian toxicity, environmental toxicology, isotopes, lead‐based ammunition, eildlife toxicology
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Conservation and biodiversity
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Pay, JM (Dr James Pay)
UTAS Author:Hawkins, CE (Dr Clare Hawkins)
UTAS Author:Kock, AJ (Ms Amelia Koch)
UTAS Author:Cameron, EZ (Professor Elissa Cameron)
ID Code:142419
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2021-01-15
Last Modified:2021-06-25
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